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Life Everlasting

Chapter Five
The Roots of Vice and Virtue

That we may understand better the immensity of the soul, in particular of the will, we must now speak of vices and virtues, those roots which penetrate into the soul, either for our loss or for our salvation.

Virtue makes man perfect, inclines him to a good end, makes of him not only a good painter, a good sculptor, a good mathematician, but a good man. Vice is an evil habitude, that of acting contrary to right reason. It deforms man entire in the conduct of his life, because it taints the will and inclines it to an evil end. Vice makes of a man not a bad painter, a bad sculptor, but a bad man, a criminal. This condition begins at times even in children of fourteen or fifteen years. All vices have one root in common, namely, the disordered love of self, opposed to the love of good, and especially of the sovereign good which is God. This evil root tends to sink itself ever more deeply into the will, and from this root there is born an evil tree. The trunk of this tree is egoism, of which the central and principal branch, the continuation of the trunk, is pride, of which the lateral branches are the concupiscence of the flesh and concupiscence of the eyes. Thus St. John.

The branches of this wicked tree have numerous sub-branches which are called capital sins.

From concupiscence of the flesh is born gluttony and luxury. From concupiscence of the eyes, that is, immoderate desire of external goods, is born avarice, and then perfidy, fraud, cheating, and hardening of the heart. From the pride of life are born vainglory and ambition, disgust for spiritual things, forgetfulness of God, envy, anger, injuries to neighbor.

The capital sins conduct man to others that are still more grave, to sins against the theological virtues. They lead to blasphemy, opposed to confession of the faith, to despair, opposed to hope, to the hate of God and neighbor, opposed to charity.

Some of these vices in the most wicked men have roots that are very deep, which manifest in their own sad manner the immensity of the soul. We know those words of St. Augustine: "Two loves have built two cities: the love of self extending to the scorn of God has made the city of Babylon, that is, the city of the world, the city of immorality, whereas the love of God even to the scorn of self has made the city of God." Just as man does not arrive all at once at sanctity, so too he does not arrive at once at complete perversity. Inordinate love of self, when it becomes dominating, puts forth roots more and more deep, to be seen in certain souls which are on the road to perdition. Their voice often has a sharp and piercing sound. They close their eyes to the divine light which alone could illumine and deliver them. At times they combat the truth, although it be evident. This is one of the forms of the sins against the Holy Spirit, impugnatio veritatis agnitae. After a miraculous healing obtained by St. Peter in the name of Jesus, the members of the Sanhedrin said: "What shall we do to these men? For indeed a miracle hath been done by them, known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. It is manifest, and we cannot deny it; but that it maybe no farther spread among the people, let us threaten them that they speak no more in this name to any man." Thus they forbade Peter and John to speak further in this name to anyone. To which these two replied: "If it be just in the sight of God, to hear you rather than God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." The measureless depths of the human soul reveal themselves in this unregulated love of self, which rises at times to the scorn and hate of God. This malice is accompanied by a hate which is inveterate and incomprehensible, even against their greatest benefactors. Certain frightening perversities, as, for instance, those of Nero and other persecutors, would not yield even to the constancy and goodness that radiated from the suffering martyrs.

Now this unbelievable degree of malice manifests by contrast the grandeur of God and of the saints. The Lord permits malice and persecution in order to let the sanctity of the martyrs shine forth the more brightly. In Spain, in I 936, during the Communist persecution, the faithful would come to their priest and say: "How is it that God permits such atrocities?" And the priest would reply: "Without persecution there can be no martyrs, and martyrs are the glory of the Church." The faithful understood and were comforted.

The immensity of the human soul appears still more in those great virtues which are rooted in it, and which could grow still greater if the time of temptation and merit were not a mere prelude to eternal life.

In virtues we distinguish the acquired virtues, which arise by repetition of natural acts, from infused virtues, which are supernatural virtues that are received at baptism, and that grow in us by means of the sacraments, by Holy Communion, and by our merits.

But even acquired virtues manifest the depths of the soul. Temperance and courage send the light of right reason down into our sensibility, there to resist temptations, at times very vivid, of impurity and laxity. Similarly the acquired virtue of justice reveals the grandeur of the human soul, particularly when, for the common good of society, it establishes and observes laws demanding great sacrifices, even those of life. We need only recall the unjustly accused Socrates, whose reverence for the laws of his land made him refuse to escape from prison.

But the infused virtues manifest still more clearly the grandeur of the soul. They proceed from sanctifying grace, which is received in the very essence of the soul as a divine root. Grace communicates to us a participation in the intimate life of God, the very vitality of God. Sanctifying grace is in truth the seed of everlasting life, semen gloriae; when it is widely expanded and developed, it enables us to see immediately God as He sees Himself, and to love Him as He loves Himself. Thus it becomes in us a germination of eternal life. If the germination of grain gives thirty or sixty or even a hundred per cent, what will be in the supernatural order the germination of eternal life?

From this divine root, which is sanctifying grace, there flows into our intelligence infused faith, and into our will infused hope and infused charity. And from these virtues derive the infused virtues of Christian prudence, of justice, of religion, of courage, of chastity, of humility, of sweetness, of patience, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The infused virtues, flowing from sanctifying grace, give to our faculties the power of acting supernaturally in order to merit eternal life. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which accompany these infused virtues, render us docile to the inspirations of the inner master. He alone draws forth from our faculties, even from our sense faculties, harmonies that are not only natural, but supernatural, harmonies that we hear especially in the lives of the saints. Sanctifying grace gives us an entirely new spiritual organism.

Taken from Life Everlasting by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

Table of Contents

1. Sensibility
2. Will and Intellect
3. Soul Immensity and Beatific Vision
4. The Source of Liberty
5. The Roots of Vice and Virtue
6. Purgatory Before Death - The Night of the Soul

7. Final Impenitence
8. The Grace of a Happy Death - The Gift of Perseverence
9. Immutability after Death
10. The Particular Judgment
11. The Last Judgment
12. Knowledge in the Separated Soul

13. The Scriptures Concerning Hell
14. Theological Reasons
15. Eternal Hell and Divine Providence
16. The Pain of Loss
17. The Pain of Sense
18. Degrees of Pain
19. Hell and Our Own Age

20. Teaching of the Church
21. Arguments and Appropriateness
22. Demonstrative Arguments
23. Pugatory's Chief Pain
24. The Pain of Sense
25. Their State of Soul
26. Charity for the Poor Souls
30. Beatific Joy

27. The Existence of Heaven
28. The Nature of Eternal Beatitude
29. The Sublimity of the Beatific Vision
31. Accidental Beatitude
32. The Number of the Elect


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